Rev. Fr. Benjamin Chang
Some years back as I was watching some documentaries on Youtube, I came across a documentary about a man named Harry Houdini. He was one of the greatest magician ever lived, who was specialized in spectacular escapes. They said that, Harry had the flexibility of an eel. He had the lives of a cat. They did all kinds of things to try to incarcerate him. They would seal him in coffins. But he would escape. They locked him in a milk can. But he escaped. They sealed him in a beer barrel. But he escaped. They put him in maximum-security prison. And the old Harry somehow got out of the prison unnoticed. But then in October 1926, death laid his hands on Harry Houdini and put him in a grave and he is yet to escape. As a matter of fact, he told his wife, if there is anyway out, I will find it. If there is any way out I’ll make contact with you and we’ll do it on the anniversary of my death. For 10 years she kept a light burning over his portrait and over his tomb. Death had Harry and he couldn’t escape.
Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus was human just like us, but without sin. And so death laid his hands on Jesus as well. It put Jesus in a tomb. And there was a stone in the mouth of that tomb and the seal of the Roman government was placed upon that tomb. But on the third day, Jesus Christ stirred Himself. He rose from the sleep of death. And Jesus Christ passed through the walls of that rock-hewn tomb.
Jesus always told His disciples that He would rise. They were astonished to hear that He would die at all: they could not think it possible that He could die by the terrible death which He often hinted at. Had they understood and really believed that He would rise again, they might not have been as surprised at His death, but often as He spoke of it, their minds seemed to have been linked to Jesus’ death to set the people of Israel free from the bondage of Roman Emperors. Their perception ran to the contrary of the ideas of the eternal kingdom of God which Jesus came to establish here on earth.
Think about presenting the Gospel without the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. All we would have left is bad news about the death of Jesus Christ. If there is no resurrection of Jesus, just like Judaism, Christianity might be death or might be just confined to the Jews. For St. Paul in First Corinthians 15:1-12 says, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain…” If Easter doesn’t exist, then our message is useless. The message that God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus Christ to die for us on the cross. He took our place, what we deserved and paid the price for our sins. He suffered and died. He was buried in a borrowed tomb for three days. But He rose again on the third day by the power of Almighty God. He ascended to Heaven and now offers victory over sin through the cross and victory over death through the resurrection.
This year, many Christians all over the world will be missing the observance of Christ’s Resurrection in their respective Churches. For many, it is awful to go through this time of the year to be locked up in our own homes. But one should know that missing Easter is not about missing a Church Service; it is about missing a personal experience with the risen Christ. To miss Easter is to miss the meaning of Easter- to miss the resurrection- to miss the real Jesus.
John 20:19-29 tells us a story of a disciple of Christ who missed Easter. Thomas, known to many of us as “Doubting Thomas” missed the appearance of Jesus Christ after His resurrection. Verses 19-23 describe the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to His disciples. It was the Sunday evening after the crucifixion of Jesus. His disciples were scared and confused, they had locked themselves in a room in fear that those who had murdered Jesus would soon be looking for them. But it was in this locked-up room that Thomas and the other disciples had an awesome encounter with Jesus Christ. When Jesus breathed on them to receive the Holy Spirit and commission them to go to the whole world, the disciples were radically and eternally changed as a result of this encounter. They were transformed from fear to courage, from sorrow to joy and from hopelessness to purpose. It is from this small locked-up room that the disciples of Jesus went all over the world to spread the Kingdom of God, where love, peace, justice and hope reigns forever.
For the Jews, the Sabbath Day is on Saturday, but for the Early Christians the Sabbath Day was observed on Sunday as a commemoration of Christ’s Resurrection. The passages of Scripture such as Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2, Colossians 2:16-17 and Revelation 1:10 indicates that, even during New Testament times, the Saturday Sabbath was no longer binding them and that Christians are to worship on Sunday, which was called as the Lord’s Day. It was the resurrection of Jesus Christ that transformed them completely. The beginning New Way Christians had no Temples or Churches, but they were committed to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Even in times of persecutions, be at home, market place or imprisoned, they lived a life worthy of being called as a Christian.
We may be missing the grandeur of observing Easter Sunday in our Churches. We will be back to our Churches when this pandemic is gone. But let us not miss the reality of the resurrection, the life-filling power of the empty tomb and the risen Christ who stands ready to bring new life into our heart, into our Homes.